Dazzled by shiny things

[listen 2m54s or read]


One of the tensions in the world (worlds?) of digital education is between the possibilities and affordances of new technologies and the realities of tech use in the wider academic community. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that in room 1 we might be supporting the use of mixed reality holographic processors or robot simulations while in room 2 the struggle to switch on the AV equipment and connect a laptop is very real. It’s too easy for tech enthusiasts to sigh (or worse, sneer) at those that struggle with technology. I am mortified to think that I may have been that person on occasion, allowing my frustration to show by (literally or metaphorically) ‘grabbing the mouse’ from someone and doing whatever was needed for them. This is at the forefront of my consciousness because at the weekend I helped one of my sisters get to grips with a smart phone and chromebook. She is artistic and creative but previously had little interest in personal affordances of such kit so, inevitably I guess,  the last year has been tough as she was not equipped to connect with family and friends. The ’emergency response’ kit and approach we initiated has now been supplanted by kit more suited to her needs and new realities.

Taking her through the set up, scaffolding control of devices and processes was (for me) a slow process and already has required some remote support but we are exchanging messages and pictures and the effort on both our parts was very much worth it. It reminded me of some colleagues I worked with at the start of the pandemic and how they had to battle with their own sense of inadequacy exacerbated by often insensitive colleagues whose assumptions about baseline digital compentence in the student and staff body did little to help with the transitions and adaptations many had to make. Roger’s oft-cited ‘Diffusion of innovations’ (1962) curve gives us the pretty negatively-connoted ‘laggards’ and this does little to help conceptualisations, assumptions and, ultimately, appropriate ways to support our colleagues. Even with the impact of Covid, even with my own delight in shiny things (like the 360 camera I’m currently playing with) I need to accept that digital enthusiasm and competence is utterly diverse. What does that mean? Well, for me, it’s about being  open, accepting and compassionate and recognising that for all the gloriously shiny, attractive things we can do, those most in need of our care are the ones who are struggling with what they must do.

For the interview for my current post I was tasked with making a video (or similar artefact) about the affordances of new technologies and this was the argument I made. Video is 3 m 24s (warning: starts with LOUD music; skip to 1m10s for actual argument).

Image: https://pixabay.com/users/thor_deichmann-2306827/